Archana’s ‘golden’ return adds colour to National Sports Day revelry

Vimla Singh

There was jubilation at the KD Singh 'Babu' Stadium, Lucknow on the eve of the National Sports Day. The mood was upbeat as the stadium's hostel trainee Archana Pal returned to Lucknow on Tuesday after winning a gold in the 5,000m run event in the 74th Singapore Open Track and Field Championship. This was the first international athletics championship for Archana. Athletics coaches were busy recalling how the young girl had lost weight over the years to give a boost to her aspirations in athletics and her story of triumphing against odds.

Archana had joined sports hostel in 2006-'07 at the age of 14. Hailing from Nibi Kala village in Jhunsi, Allahabad, Archana had taken to the sport at the age of around ten years. Her father late Bhullur Pal wanted her to become an athlete as his nephews were trainees of the sport at Allahabad. In her village too, several boys had played at the national level. So intense was the desire to see his daughter become an athlete that Bhullur, an electrician by profession, made her run in the village fields to increase her speed. But tragedy struck when he passed away in 2003. She still remembers how happy he was when she had won her first gold in the 800m event in a state championship.

Talking to The Indian Express, Archana,20, said, "It was my father who used to gather information about athletics events and with whom I used to go for participation in the tournaments. After his death there was nobody to guide me in all this so I had to leave practice for a year or two. My sister Pushpa (now married) who is five years older than me and brother Shakti Singh who is just two years older than me were all small. The economic condition started worsening. Farming on the land we have in the village was the only option left for the family. Shakti is now a plumber and he has been supporting the family. He had to make a lot of sacrifices in his education."

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